Heritage that hurts – Interpreting ‘June 16 Day of the African child’


wilson ngoni painting

The events of June 16, 1976 in the now Republic of South Africa led to the declaration of youth day or day of the African child. In heritage literature these are now synonymous with heritage that hurts or dark heritage. Interpretation of heritage that hurts (Uzzel and Ballantyne 2008; Sather-Wagstaff 2011; Muringaniza 2002) or dark heritage (McAtackney 2014; Stone 2006) has become a topic of research in most academic literature, with heritages such as those of the holocaust in German history (Bergmann and Jucovy 1982; Young 1990).

June 16 is a day that is remembered mainly through the lens of apartheid regime where most youths were killed in hundreds while fighting for seemingly small but significant civil liberties at the time, such as recognition of one’s language, association with one’s correct history, and the freedom to express poilitical and economic dissatisfaction where necessary. The film, Sarafina (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarafina!_(film), captured the youth experience at the time.

In retrospect, one wonders how these events and their resultant political and economic turnovers are expressed or interpreted in the present. Where does the centre of interpretation lie, two decades post the independence that they 1976 youths wanted so bad to gain human acceptance?

Heritage interpretation is a topic that Africa’s evolving democracies need to engage with quite often. In instances such as those leading to the declaration of day of the African child, how can the day be celebrated in such a way that it encompasses memory as well as progress without opening new wounds or without dismissing (in a desperate need for homogeneous peace), the struggles that made it possible for the civil liberties to be availed to the broader public?

In terms of heritage interpretation, is it interpreted in general as  a subset of the apartheid system? Does interpretation heap focus on black youths against others? How do we incorporate interpretation elements that give the youth of today a reason to move forward with the knowledge, rather than to get stuck with the pain that comes with the events? These are key issues in heritage interpretation that need to be reflected on while remembering this special day.

Read more on the weblink below chronicling the Soweto youth uprising in the Republic of South Africa on June 16, 1976 that resulted to the declaration of the day of the African child:

South Africa: Youth Day, Remembering the Soweto uprising




Dr Susan O. Keitumetse competed for and won two separate Commonwealth scholarships both to University of Cambridge, UK , where she pursued MPhil (Archaeological Heritage Management and Museums) and later on PhD (African cultural heritage and Sustainable Development). Before she had obtained a BA degree (Archaeology and Environmental Sciences) and Post Graduate Diploma in Education (Geography and History) from the University of Botswana. During her post-graduate studies, she combined both environmental science and archaeology disciplines to venture into the broader cultural and heritage management studies with a particular focus on sustainable development and cultural heritage management at the department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge. With a view to catalyze a linkage between environment and cultural heritage in Africa, Dr Keitumetse conducted various researches and published works that illustrate the relevance of cultural and heritage resources for the broader environmental conservation. She works at the University of Botswana’s Okavango Research Institute as a researcher in cultural heritage and tourism where she undertakes applied research in areas such as the Okavango inland Delta World Heritage Site and Kalahari areas. Of particular note is her developing conservation model of Community-Based Cultural Heritage Resources Management (COBACHREM) to guide local communities and practitioners’ initiatives towards sustainable use of cultural heritage resources for social development. Dr Keitumetse is an associate editor of the journal Environment, Development, and Sustainability published by Springer. She also sits in the editorial board of the international journal of community archaeology and heritage, published by Taylor and Francis, as well as the International Journal of Heritage and Sustainable Development published by Green Lines Institute, Portugal. Dr Keitumetse has both national and international experience from across the world. She has won academic grants for research fellowships in international institutions that include; the Rockefeller Fellowship at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA; the Watson Scholar Fellowship at Brown University in Rhode Island, USA and the Wenner-Gren Foundation research grant for research on ‘historical archaeology of marginal landscapes of eastern Botswana’. Outside academia and in international development Dr Keitumetse has worked and continues to work with institutions such as UNESCO as an expert advisor, examiner, facilitator, and consultant within the intangible cultural heritage section. She has corporate governance experience from African government parastatal institution dealing with environment, heritage, tourism and land use planning. These are derived from her tenure as a board director of Botswana Tourism Organisation for six years, where she also chaired a quality assurance committee of the board dealing with grading and certifying tourism accommodation. Her overall research interests are in the areas of sustainable development and cultural heritage conservation; historical archaeology; community heritage management; communal cultural identities; heritage tourism; heritage and protected areas; international management of cultural heritage; amongst others. Dr Susan Keitumetse has published extensively in the field of cultural heritage conservation and management in Africa, Her works comprise of peer-reviewed articles in international journals; peer-reviewed book chapters; refereed conference proceedings; and technical reports in international periodicals, magazines and newspapers. These can be accessed through search engines such as Google Scholar and LinkedIn. *********************************************************************************************
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